Blog AnalysisAsia

Post-2014 and the delicate question of the reduction of… Afghan forces (Maj)

Armored vehicles in an Antonov shuttling between Germany and Afghanistan (credit: German Ministry of Defense / Bundeswehr)

(BRUSSELS2) The transition in Afghanistan is no small matter. And a number of points still remain to be settled, alongside which the logistical aspects of the withdrawal seem only a "small" submerged part of the iceberg of difficulties. The meeting of the Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs of the 28 which started this morning in Brussels is therefore intended to prepare for the Chicago summit and to reach a "little consensus".

Three points are particularly under discussion during this meeting, according to our information:

  • 1) What posture should the Atlantic Alliance adopt by 2014, what repercussions on the conduct of operations, on the forces when what is called the "2013 shift", all the Afghan provinces will have entered into transition?
  • 2) What will happen after 2014? How to build the period which follows the intervention during ten years of intervention of the international security assistance force (ISAF/ISAF present since 2003 in the country) in its active combat version? How to ensure the sustainability of the Afghan forces (long-term funding and evolution of the workforce)?
  • 3) What will NATO do next in the country? What "residual" missions will it carry out? And what will be the volume of the troops remaining on the spot? A point which seems difficult to fix, according to several countries, from 2012 for a period after 2014 which will depend on many elements: in particular the establishment of the process of intra-Afghan reconciliation and the role of Pakistan. We could also add the "good resistance" of the Afghan forces or the dynamics of the Taliban and other opposition forces.

The delicate reduction of forces

It is indeed a delicate question on which the Ministers of Defense of the "28" members of the Atlantic Alliance will look into today, during their "jumbo" meeting with their Foreign Affairs counterparts. The objective of having 352.000 members of the Afghan security forces (army, police, etc.) by autumn 2012 is about to be achieved. But in the short term, this figure should fall to 228.000 from 2015, according to a model prepared by the Americans. What to do with the approximately 125.000 men who will be freed by then. " How can we ensure that those who are kicked out today will not become a danger tomorrow? The question is at the center of the debates at this meeting of Defense Ministers. The Americans do have an idea: first of all, if the economic situation improves, it could favor the return of certain "old-timers" to civilian life, the constitution of a National Guard-type reserve (like what happening in the United States) could allow this reduction of forces, with the natural "attrition" rate remaining particularly high.

The Post-Afghan Discussion

The budget for the Afghan forces amounts, according to an assessment made by the Americans, to 4,1 billion $ on an annual basis for the first three years! After that, there is no rating available. This budget would be broken down into three parts: one borne by the Afghans themselves ($0,5 billion), the other by the various partners involved in Ifas ($1,3 billion), the last part being borne by the Americans ($2,3 billion). Part of the debate lies in the amount itself and its duration; the other in its distribution and especially its evolution over the years. The project presented to the Ministers evokes a variable part of the Americans which would decrease as the power increases either of the Afghan budget or of other partners. A point which does not please all the States participating in IFAS.

Some argue that not only IFAS partners but the entire international community should be involved, and that this share could also decrease over time. On the French side, in particular - but this is the case for other countries - we believe that we must take into account those who will continue to contribute to the security effort in Afghanistan after 2014, in particular by providing equipment or men for the training of security forces in particular. " There is no reason for only ISAF countries to be contributors - thus considers Gérard Longuet, French Minister of Defense, who confided in a few journalists including B2 -, we must take into account the gradual increase in the Afghan contribution, and the nations that are fighting must be supported by the nations that are not fighting and have significant means ". On the American side, we believe we have already "given a lot" for Afghanistan; this country indeed ranks first in bilateral contributions from the State Department (ahead of Israel!). It should be noted that this budget would be provided by "voluntary contributions" and not according to the usual distribution key for NATO's common expenses.

The distribution of this sum will give rise to all the more bitter debates as almost all countries - at least European - are subject to intense budgetary rationing. It also seems delicate to be able to justify the commitment of large sums in the eyes of public opinion, while other portions of external aid (humanitarian, development, defence, etc.) are subject to rationing.

The European contribution

The Americans and NATO are currently making the rounds to bring back a maximum of monetary and material contributions for after 2014. NATO Secretary General AF Rasmussen, who recently met JM Barroso, thus obtained European Union a significant increase in its contribution for Afghanistan. According to our information, the EU effort would increase by 50%, thus increasing from 200 to 300 million euros per year for development aid over the next budgetary period (2014-2021). While the contribution to the Lofta (rule of law, police, army) would increase from 60 to 200 million euros.

This only concerns aid paid from the Community budget. For the record, the EU and its Member States paid over the period 2002-2010 nearly 8 billion euros to Afghanistan. AF Rasmussen is due to meet Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, on April 22. And the contribution of the Member States should also be mentioned there along with other very delicate subjects - such as the future Cypriot presidency of the European Union - which starts on 1 July - and the difficult period which will begin between the two organisations, because of the unresolved Turkish-Cypriot conflict.

(maj) First promises. According to certain information released after the meeting, Belgium has already pledged $15 million, the United Kingdom $110 million, but not before 2015, Canada.

(Maj - after meeting with statements by G. Longuet)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).